The housing crisis and calls for solutions are reaching a fever pitch in Great Barrington, where workers are struggling to find a place to live. A sign outside Prairie Whale, a Main Street restaurant, calls attention to the problem.
GREAT BARRINGTON — The town is making money from its tax on short-term rentals, and officials have thrown this into the debate as they move closer to hammering out regulations that would limit this revenue stream.
In Great Barrington, where the median single-family home price is $348,400, the problem is driven by a slew of factors. Most recently, the coronavirus pandemic had city dwellers buying fast and moving here full time. Many second-home owners came to live here year-round.
For those who support the tightest regulations, the loss is OK. They say it might even be surpassed by people who live full time in homes that might otherwise have been used as short-term rentals — if those are bought by year-round residents.
Others say the town needs every dime from sources other than real estate taxes, since residents also are clamoring for a way to lower those.
From September 2020 through December 2021, more than $404,000 in revenue from a 6 percent tax on short-term rentals landed in town coffers, according to the Massachusetts Department of Revenue. The agency recently began breaking out short-term rental data from all lodging revenue in a community.
Finance Committee Chairman Philip Orenstein presented this at last week’s meeting, saying he did so in response to requests for more data as the community continues a fiery discourse that now involves a petition and an alternative, less restrictive, bylaw.
It might be helpful to see some numbers, Orenstein said.
“I don’t particularly think this moves the discussion one way or the other in a meaningful way,” he said, noting that the good news is that tax revenue for the current fiscal year will be higher than for the last fiscal year.
Taken together with traditional lodging tax revenue for the same time period, the grand total comes to more than $1.1 million.
On Monday, the Select Board will continue to parse the proposed bylaw, word for word, to come up with something vote-worthy. Residents still will have to approve it at annual town meeting in May.
More information about short-term rentals
Great Barrington has 56 homes that are not …….